And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lessons from Blue People

For my birthday this past weekend Scott and I went into Denver to treat me to a shopping trip at an art’s supply store, and dinner and a movie. on our way in we stopped at Copper Mountain for a cup of coffee and a potty break, I kind of laughed to myself as I noticed that I was all dressed for my trip into the big city and all the other people in the coffee shop were all dressed down for their time in the country.
As we pulled up to the Interquest 14 Theatre, located in the new growth of shiny shopping malls and six land wide streets on the south side of town, I almost said to Scott,
“Okay, I’ll run in and you can watch the baby,” and then realized we could both go in at the same time because we had left her with Scott’s Mom. As I walked into the movie theatre I was a bit disgusted at the size of the preceding atrium. My head swiveled around the colossal domed structure and marveled at the amount of money that had been spent on just the entryway. After the entryway I was greeted by two escalators and a set of staircases that took me down to the ticket window, maybe the theatre company figured that if you made the walk to the counter about a mile you’d be hungry and would buy some popcorn. We bought our tickets and debated about which of the eight doors we would use to enter the theatre. I was thirsty so thought that I would cruise on up and grab a soda before the movie. Used to Nairobi prices I thought I would just get a small or a bottle for about a dollar. Or the small soda cost $4.25. I decided to stay thirsty.
We had previously seen Avatar in Nairobi on a pirated disc, something which I shouldn’t admit, but when that is all that is available you get desperate. Of course, because there is karma, it didn’t have the last twenty minutes on the disc, so we needed to see it again and wanted to do it in 3D. (That’s not the only time that the last portion of a movie was missing on a pirated disc, I’m guessing it’s because the Chinese have put cops in their theatres and they flush out the guy holding up his camcorder.)
It began, and BAM, I was completely engrossed. I could not believe the difference that 3D made. The amount of detail that was there that I had missed practically gave me goose bumps. After we had watched it the first time we both were kind of unimpressed, I really just felt like it was just a movie about blue people. This time, I cried, a couple of times. The immense amount of visual stimuli sucked me in so much more that I cared and felt way more than I did when it was just a slightly pixilated image on a 21 inch TV.
As I was watching the scenes of the ostentatious flying machines destroying bucolic trees and blue people I kept thinking, ‘surely we are more evolved than this and wouldn’t do this.’ But I knew it was wrong. We’ve done this in America, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and those are just the English speaking colonies. Over and over again we have infiltrated other people’s lands and because we wanted it and we took it. No one is complicit on this, that’s the basis of tribal warfare as well. I sat there with a pit in my stomach thinking and hoping that we have learned our lesson and that if we ever reach a point where we are going to other planets that we won’t just blow up the natives because they are sitting on things we want.
In the movie there was intimation that the humans had destroyed out own world, I don’t know if that will happen. The ozone layer healed itself after we stopped pumping CFC’s into it. More people are switching to cloth diapers. I know many people who are growing their own food, and starting to rethink how much meat they eat. Other countries are doing much better than we are, smaller cars and more electric ones and alternative sources of fuel. For us to change gas needs to get expensive, that’s only way to change Americans, hit us in the pocketbook.
I was a bit jealous thinking about the fictional biological connection that the Na’vi had with their world. I was struck thinking that some of it was true, of course much borrowed from Native American beliefs, but so many things in our world move in cycles. Time. The nitrogen cycle (which we are part of, by the way, ashes to ashes, dust to dust). The water cycle. An animal or plant dies, and we eat it so that we can live. We actually are connected to our world. If nothing else backpacking and hiking has taught me thatI have gotten back in touch my innate sense of direction. I have discovered that nature calms me and brings me back to what matters. Having my daughter has taught me how connected we are, the fact that my body still nourishes her while she is well on her way to becoming a separate entity.
I was also left thinking about the implications of the depiction of Jake Scully as a successful cross-cultural plant. He had nothing to lose, and he was fearless. He also entered into the situation with the intention to learn and not the intention to teach. A mistake that is commonly made by almost all cross-cultural workers. Which makes me wonder if going overseas to teach is ever a good idea.
WHile one may just view Avatar as a summer blockbuster made to produce millions and only that, there are undeniable mythic truths depicted in the story line. I was a bit surprised by how affected I was by the movie. Even to the point of tears.

1 comment:

Sarai said...

I have also wondered about the question of whether or not it is a good idea to teach abroad.

I volunteered in an orphanage in Ethiopia and when I got there, I asked, "What can I do to help?" And I was thinking, childcare, cleaning, helping with the farm, etc. But they asked me, "Please, could you teach our kids English?"

Since that was what they asked me to do, I did it. Apparently, the only way for kids there to get into high school is if they pass their English test, and they saw that as the first step to getting out of poverty.

I still have mixed feelings about it. Like you, I think cross cultural workers sometimes to forget that whatever we think we have to teach, there's a whole lot to be learned, too.

Anyway, I loved Avatar, too.